When I was making my CoCoRaHS weather observations this morning, I was surprised to find that the snow on my snow measuring boards had frozen into a solid mass, and there was a crust on the snowpack in the yard. It looked like atmospheric conditions had changed at the tail end of Winter Storm Argos, and the ability to form ice crystals out of the available moisture had diminished. Whatever the cause, it meant that some liquid water managed to sneak its way down into the lower atmosphere and freeze there. This mixed precipitation was concerning with respect to ski conditions, but the whole family had the day off and we headed up to Bolton Valley in the morning anyway to try to get in a tour.
“The crust was there, but it was close to what we call a “crème brûlée crust” – the kind that is fairly thin and can be pulverized by your skis as they carve through the powder.”
We arrived at Timberline and I immediately checked the snow to see if there was any crust and whether or not it was going to manageable with respect to skiing. The crust was there, but it was close to what we call a “crème brûlée crust” – the kind that is fairly thin and can be pulverized by your skis as they carve through the powder. It was on the thicker side of the crème brûlée spectrum, but still thin enough that I figured it would be almost nonexistent on appropriately protected terrain aspects.
“You still had to watch out for a bit of crust or thickened snow at times, but there were definitely a lot of good turns to be had.”
As we ascended the skin track on the climber’s left of Twice as Nice, the crust all but disappeared and alleviated any fears we had of finding some decent powder. It turned out that the crust had come in on a northwest wind, and any locations sheltered in that direction had virtually pristine powder. We had a couple quick breaks on the ascent, but made quick time up to the Timberline Mid Station where we cut over toward Spell Binder and geared up for the descent amongst the shelter of some trees. While I worked on tweaking some camera settings for the descent, the others worked on their gear changeovers, and E was keen to make her transition from skins without removing her skis. She actually made pretty smooth work of it, with just one major complication on her second ski when her skin folded over and adhered to itself too soon. While the boys were putting their skis back on, E enjoyed pointing out to them that she didn’t have to.
I knew from my tour yesterday that we wouldn’t really want to try to ski the Spell Binder headwall, so we cautiously made our way down that pitch and then got into the protected snow below. I checked both sides of the trail, but as I’d suspected, it was quickly evident that the skier’s right was the way to go. It was indeed protected from the crust and yielded some pretty nice powder. You still had to watch out for a bit of crust or thickened snow at times, but there were definitely a lot of good turns to be had. Relative to Sunday’s tour with the boys, you could see that they struggled more with their Telemark technique because today’s powder wasn’t nearly as pristine. In contrast, E and I didn’t really have any issues, and it just comes down to years of experience making Telemark turns and adapting to what Mother Nature throws at you. I’ll say that having 115 mm rockered fat skis helped to some degree as well; the boys’ skis are more in the 90 mm range for width, and while the boys weigh less than us of course, the ski girth definitely still makes a difference in floatation. We actually found some excellent snow right on the last pitch of Timberline Run heading down to the base of the Timberline Quad – the orientation of that pitch was perfect for protection from the icing. If folks had been up for another lap, I knew of a bunch of possibilities that would hold some great snow based on what I’d seen up to that point.
Back at the base I was talking to Ty and lamenting the fact that the powder wasn’t quite as perfect, or as pristine as what we’d had on Sunday, but he said he didn’t mind because he really enjoyed the skin up. That’s the first time he’s voiced that perspective on a tour, but it’s great to see him gaining that appreciation. He was definitely in good form on the ascent today though – I could tell that my pace was a bit slow for him with the way he was nipping at my heels, so I offered him the lead on the final ¼ of the ascent and he took off.
“In honor of today’s conditions on the hill, Dylan said that we needed to make crème brûlée this evening, so indeed we did.”
In honor of today’s conditions on the hill, Dylan said that we needed to make crème brûlée this evening, so indeed we did. We went with standard vanilla for this first batch, but we have the ingredients to make another round, so maybe we’ll pick something fun to put together if we have time over the holiday week. And speaking of the holiday week, it looks like we’ve got a couple more snowstorms coming – one tomorrow and another over the weekend, so maybe we’ll have some fresh snow to entice us back out onto the slopes.